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Bite-size i.MX7 module sips power, ships with Linux

Feb 23, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1,008 views

Toradex launched a pair of Colibri COMs built around NXP’s low-power, Cortex-A7- and -M4-based i.MX 7 Solo and Dual SoCs, featuring -20 to 85°C operation.

As promised last September, Toradex has shipped one of the first computer-on-modules based on NXP’s i.MX7 system-on-chips. It does not appear to be the first, as CompuLab promised to ship its CL-SOM-iMX7 COM in Jan. 2016. Toradex can, however, claim to have the smallest i.MX7 module to date — its 67.6 x 36.7mm dimensions beat out the 68 x 42mm CompuLab module.



Colibri iMX7
(click image to enlarge)

The 800MHz Colibri iMX7S and 1GHz Colibri iMX7D are based on the single- and dual-core Cortex-A7 i.MX7 SoCs, respectively, that were announced last June by Freescale before it merged with NXP. Each SoC is further equipped with a 200MHz Cortex-M4 microcontroller, enabling real-time processing and sensor and actuator control, thereby strengthening the platform’s support for Internet of Things applications.

Just as important for IoT, the i.MX7 features low power consumption. Freescale touted the i.MX7’s Cortex-A7 and Cortex-M4 cores for having core efficiency levels of 100 μW/MHz and 70 μW/MHz, respectively. The SoC’s overall power efficiency was said to be 15.7 DMIPS/mW, and a new Low Power State Retention (LPSR) mode was claimed to run at 250 μW.

Toradex lists only a “tbd” designation for the power dissipation rating of the Colibri iMX7S and iMX7D modules, but says the consumption in operating mode is in the range of the pin-compatible Colibri VF61, which is based on the 500MHz, Cortex-A5 Vybrid VF6xx, an NXP/Freescale SoC that similarly features a Cortex-M4. According to Toradex, the i.MX7 Solo SoC consumes 25 percent less power than the i.MX6 Solo. In standby mode, i.MX7 requires less than a third of the power of the i.MX6 Solo.

Unlike the Vybrid VF6xx SoC, the i.MX7 processors feature a heterogeneous multicore architecture that coordinates the activities of the Cortex-A7 and Cortex-M4 cores, “clearly separating real time tasks from any server or GUI-related applications,” says Toradex. They also offer advanced security features such as secure boot, cryptographic acceleration and tamper detection. What you won’t find here is a 3D-accelerated GPU, further focusing the SoC on IoT duty.



Colibri iMX7 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The new Colibri iMX7S and Colibri iMX7D modules are almost identical except for their Cortex-A7 clock rates and core counts. The key difference is that the dual-core Colibri iMX7D offers twice the RAM, with 512MB of DDR3. The Colibri iMX7D also adds a second USB host interface as well as an RMII interface enabling a second 10/100 Ethernet port on the carrier.

Key differences with the CompuLab CL-SOM-iMX7 include the allotment of 512MB NAND flash instead of the CompuLab module’s up to 1GB NAND or up to 32GB eMMC options. While the Colibri modules are limited to a 24-bit RGB display interface with 4-wire resistive touch, the CompuLab COM also offers a pair of DSI interfaces and optional LVDS. In either case, the LCD video resolution is up to 1920 x 1080 @60Hz. The Colibri COMs also lack the CL-SOM-iMX7’s built in wireless module, optional GbE support, and MIPI-CSI and PCIe interfaces.

Pricing for the Colibri iMX7S and Colibri iMX7D are $44 and $49, respectively, in volume, while the CL-SOM-iMX7 starts at $39 in volume. However, the interfaces on the Toradex COMs are all standard while many of the CompuLab interfaces are optional both in availability and number of interfaces. In addition, the standard Colibri counts for I/O such as I2C, SPI, and PWM are higher than the maximum counts available from CompuLab, and Toradex adds an IrDA connection.

The Colibri iMX7S and Colibri iMX7D come standard with -20 to 85°C extended temperature operation. By comparison, the CL-SOM-iMX7 also offers commercial and industrial ranges, with the intermediate extended range set at -20 to 70°C.

The Colibri COMs are supported with the usual range of optional Toradex carrier boards, including the Colibri Evaluation Board. and the Orchid, Iris, and Viola carriers. These boards are detailed in our recent coverage of a new Toradex partner program that will support Colibri COMs with third-party carrier boards, displays, and enclosures.

Specifications listed for the Colibri iMX7S and Colibri iMX7D include:

  • Processor — NXP i.MX7 Solo (Colibri iMX7S) or Dual (Colibri iMX7D ) with 1x or 2x ARM Cortex-A7 cores @ 800MHz or 1.0GHz, respectively; Cortex-M4 MCU @ 200MHz; 2D image processor; NEON SIMD and VFPv4 support
  • Memory:
    • 256MB (iMX7S) or 512MB (iMX7D) DDR3 RAM
    • 512MB NAND flash
  • Display — LCD RGB 24-bit (150MHz) for up to 1920 x 1080 @60Hz (via 200-pin SODIMM edge connector)
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet controller; iMX7D adds RMII interface enabling second Ethernet port
  • Other I/O (via 200-pin SODIMM edge connector):
    • 2x MMC/SD/SDIO
    • USB 2.0 OTG
    • 1x (iMX7S) or 2x (iMX7D) USB 2.0 host
    • Analog audio line-in, line-out, mic-in
    • Parallel camera
    • 7x UART
    • 4x I2C
    • 4x SPI
    • 2x CAN bus
    • 20x PWM
    • 123x GPIO
    • 4x ADC
    • IrDA
    • 16-bit external bus
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 67.6 x 36.7 x 6.2mm
  • Operating system — Linux pre-installed; Windows Embedded Compact 7/2013 available in Q4 2016

 
Further information

The Colibri iMX7S and iMX7D are available starting later today at the Toradex Webshop at respective prices of $60 and $65 (1-499 units) ranging to $44 and $49 (10K-plus). More information is available at Toradex’s Colibri iMX7S and Colibri iMX7D product page.
 

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